Kicks with Capes — Super Heroic and How Jason Mayden is Building Stronger Kids

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Narration by Eugene Kan & Alex Maeland
Audio by Elphick Wo
Photos by Alex Maeland

Narration by Eugene Kan & Alex Maeland
Audio by Elphick Wo
Photos by Alex Maeland

Since our talk last year on his Trillicon Valley initiative, Jason Mayden is writing the next chapter of his narrative centered on building the next generation of resilient and capable youth. His new brand Super Heroic makes kids sneakers for now, but it’s not a sneaker company. Instead, it’s a brand focused on the concept of “play” and its essential role in helping shape the lives of kids. On his 112th trip through China for factory visits, we came along for the ride as we caught up with Jason as he talked about the next generation of sneaker wearers.

<p>Jason meets with the shoe manufacturing team from AGS in Guangzhou, China.</p>

Jason meets with the shoe manufacturing team from AGS in Guangzhou, China.

<p>Jason reviews a set of samples at the offices of AGS in Guangzhou.</p>

Jason reviews a set of samples at the offices of AGS in Guangzhou.

I wasn't looking for the company for validation or my self-worth. I was just there because it was fun and the shoes were free. […] But it never really was about telling people where I work. My family thought I was a general manager at Foot Locker!
<p>The main man at AGS, Henry and Jason discuss the final samples.</p>

The main man at AGS, Henry and Jason discuss the final samples.

My strategy—and I always tell people this—is to eliminate the way people can tell me ‘no’ and the last thing they can say to me is ‘yes.’ So in order to figure out how a person would tell me ‘no,’ I have to put myself out there and be willing to be rejected, to be laughed at, to be made fun of.
<p>Elements of the Super Heroic branding experience including a cape-integrated bag and packaging.</p>

Elements of the Super Heroic branding experience including a cape-integrated bag and packaging.

<p>Face-to-face meetings are critical to the product during the final stages.</p>

Face-to-face meetings are critical to the product during the final stages.

All of the health and wellness industry fashion and any of this stuff is basically optimized to fix broken adults. It’s always showing them the most amplified version of who they could be, the skinniest version, the most in shape version, the coolest version. But my thing is: why don't we just build stronger children instead of fixing broken adults?
<p>A pattern maker at work.</p>

A pattern maker at work.

<p>Die-cutting the upper to the Super Heroic TMBLR v1 model.</p>

Die-cutting the upper to the Super Heroic TMBLR v1 model.

If you look at our product, the first thing you notice is the logo is smaller than the shoe itself because it's really about the kids, not about the brand. We're not trying to turn them into billboards.
<p>Spools of thread at AGS.</p>

Spools of thread at AGS.

I'm going to reach my plateau at some point and feel like, ‘where I stop is where you stop.’ But if I train you up, where I stop is where you should begin. And you grow from there and take it to another level that I couldn't take it to.
<p>A part of the shaping process to ensure optimal fit.</p>

A part of the shaping process to ensure optimal fit.

<p>Stitching the upper on the production line.</p>

Stitching the upper on the production line.

It's fun to see kids running around doing it—it’s so funny—because they build up to the moment as if they really are in their mind, a superhero. It's the funniest thing.
<p>Calling out changes for the final release.</p>

Calling out changes for the final release.

A lot of kids look at YouTube unboxing, but nobody's ever designed for that specific moment because they’re trying to attract the parent and I'm like, ‘my kids don’t learn about other stuff from other kids. Not from parents.’
<p>Wear-testing Super Heroic&#8217;s first release, the TMBLR v1.</p>

Wear-testing Super Heroic’s first release, the TMBLR v1.

<p>Testing the tensile strength of the upper&#8217;s materials.</p>

Testing the tensile strength of the upper’s materials.

The emotional toil really come down to if I don't do it, it won't get done. It's one of those things like, ‘I have to do it.’ There is no person I can default to. There are no excuses.
<p>Jason Mayden reviewing printed matter.</p>

Jason Mayden reviewing printed matter.

If the expectation is for me to fail, then what do I have to lose? The expectation for people like me is that we fail. […] So, if no one expects much of me, then I can expect everything of me.
<p>Jason examines the final packaging at Yuto, a packaging manufacturer in Shenzhen.</p>

Jason examines the final packaging at Yuto, a packaging manufacturer in Shenzhen.

Being a nerd is no longer...you're not a social outcast. It’s actually a badge of honor to want to be creative and smart and make stuff.
<p>The final chapter closed on Jason&#8217;s 112th trip in China.</p>

The final chapter closed on Jason’s 112th trip in China.

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